Steam Next Fest’s line-up has some fantastic demos you should play right away

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With hundreds of games included in Steam’s Next Fest, it’s always difficult to play enough to figure out where to start. Ahead of the last week, we’ve been playing demos and pre-release builds so that we can relay to you the best games you should be eyeing up for your wishlist this year.

With a range of blockbuster games, to small and cozy indie city builders, we’ve set down our top twelve games that you should be thinking about during this promotional week.

Steam Next Fest’s best demos

Across the entire VideoGamer team, we each tested out a varied range of titles from deck-builders, roguelikes, city builders and horror games. Get your wishlists ready!

Tormenture

The first game we’re going to be raving about is Tormenture; a pixel-art puzzle game that shifts between unsettling 3D worlds and analog horror.

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“WARNING: Don’t play for many consecutive hours or you might start experiencing visions, night terrors, and other distortions of reality.” This is not a message necessarily directed at the game, but instead one that you will find in-game, as you’re playing a game on a Commodore 64-like console.

What starts off as a puzzle game quickly transforms into something sinister. You adopt the role of a little child playing in their bedroom, before quickly realising that the puzzle game you’re playing is a lot more tangible than it seems. I’ve long been waiting for an analogue horror title like this, and now that it’s here – I can’t even bring myself to play it at times.

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The seamless switch between 3D and 2D mediums is naturalised through the different planes interacting with each other, and the puzzles are seemingly endless.

Kill Knight

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Our Antony Terrence writes about Kill Knight:

Steeped in shades of red, Kill Knight is an isometric action shooter with some roguelike genes. After a reveal at the Triple-I Initiative event, the game caught my interest when I saw a knight fire rockets into enemies before slicing them up with a sword. As an undead knight tasked with finding the last angel, plots rarely get more DOOM: Eternal than that. With snappy movement and unique synergies between melee and ranged attacks, Kill Knight commands your entire attention as you weave between foes.

Warcana

Another from Antony:

A real-time strategy game with deck-building elements, Warcana didn’t take long to win me over. You earn resources each turn, letting you call in troops or build defences to withstand attack phases in a battle royale against 29 other players. The game could use some polish for quality-of-life changes but there’s no denying that the devs are onto a solid combat loop. While I haven’t tried my luck against 29 foes yet, the demo features polished 2D sprites and neat tower defence mechanics reminiscent of NetStorm: Islands At War (1997).

Golden Lap

Alex Raisbeck‘s thoughts on Golden Lap:

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Shrink down the complexities of F1 Manager and add in a lovely Mini Motorways-esque art style and you’ve got Golden Lap. Hire yourself a couple of drivers and engineers and hit the track. During qualifying, you can tweak your cars to suit the circuit, and upgrade each element of your cars in between races using your prize money. Manage your tyres and fuel to maximise speed but minimise pit stops.

It’s a simple game, and it won’t be long before you find yourself a decent strategy, but watching your drivers slowly climb through the pack during a race sure is sweet. Whether you’re an F1 fan or not, this racing management sim is as refreshingly relaxing as it is addicting.

Beyond these Stars

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Antony’s last recommendation:

A colony builder set on a space whale? Sign me up. Its premise grabbed me right from the start and fortunately, things aren’t as sci-fi as you’d expect. Despite being in space, you handle the usual production chains that start with potatoes and go all the way to electronics. The game also introduces a neat mechanic where you influence the path the space whale takes, letting you meet alien species and grab resources from planets. Colony builders have been exploring new settings for a while. For instance, the Wandering Village from 2022 let you build on top of a dinosaur-like being. But taking things to space lets Beyond These Stars distinguish itself with even more possibilities.

Super Fantasy Kingdom

Our graphics designer Hayley writes:

Super Fantasy Kingdom is a cute little tower defense, town management, rogue-light, cozy hybrid.

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With various units for the tower defense portion of the game – of which the first I chose was a werewolf that ‘shoots’ wolves at enemies – along with places on the map to purchase numerous other characters as you unlock more of the map each run. These units then level up at the end of the day – depending on if you’ve had your little farmers doing their job thanks to your town management skills.

It’s not just more units you find as you unlock the map; permanent bonus resources for future runs and events and characters appear too, making that urge to play ‘just one more run’ all the more enticing.

SFK is right up my alley; it’s a little bit of a time-sink. I also want to see what that little mysterious eyeball-headed man has to say for himself…

Beyond Galaxyland

Allie has had this to say about Beyond Galaxyland:

Beyond Galaxyland takes a sci-fi adventure RPG and injects it with cosy vibes to create a perfect balance.

It’s a game you can either take seriously, perfecting your battle tactics and beating every boss first time, or you can take it at your own pace, completing fun side quests and exploring all the different worlds and planets the game has to offer. Or both!

Via United Label.

The 2.5D design adds an extra layer of immersion to the pixel-style graphics while keeping hold of the retro vibes. Plus, the parallax background graphics react to movement, creating a hazy, dreamlike feel to the game.

The battle mechanics were clear and not overly complicated and the gameplay incorporates some puzzle-solving aspects that add an extra edge to the experience. I loved playing as a gun-wielding guinea pig.

Weyrdlets

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Hot-shot news writer Nico Vergara writes:

Weyrdlets is the casual Pokémon management sim I’ve always dreamed of. No, you won’t have to fight other Weyrdlets to make your companion stronger. Instead, all you have to do is give it some TLC by feeding them regularly, playing with them, and making sure their basic needs are met. If you do, they’ll reward you with everlasting companionship that not even your favorite Pokémon can give. Oh, and they’ll also dig up tons of Shinies and Jellystars you can use to make your island/Weyrdlet combo the very best…like no one ever was.

Conscript

Our Miljan Truc has had this to say:

Conscript is a pixelated survival horror game following the story of a French soldier during the harrowing battle of Verdun in World War 1. The protagonist is looking for a way to find his missing brother, also a fellow soldier, while the battle rages on. Artillery shells are raining everywhere, people are being killed, and German soldiers launch regular trench raids.

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The game benefits from the bleak atmosphere through its art style and impressive (or depressive) sound design. You will have to navigate trenches, bunkers, and other structures while fighting or evading enemies and solving puzzles along the way. There is a rudimentary crafting system reminiscent of older survival horror games, like combining bandages with antiseptic to cure infections for example.

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The main hindrance in Conscript are its fidgety controls, on both mouse and keyboard and controller. There are instances in which they flat out don’t work, or require a very precise positioning without due reason. Another smaller gripe is a lack of direction when starting out. While I don’t mind this old-school throwback, I can see some players being dejected or lost. If ironed out before release, Conscript could be a fresh addition to the genre and we’re looking forward to seeing its development.

Drill Core

Nico is back at it again with Drill Core:

Don’t let its charming 2D graphics fool you; Drill Core is an enjoyable but tough strategic management sim where you take control of a merry band of workers to help save planets and their inhabitants. Sure, Drill Core’s premise, like its gameplay, might sound complicated at first. But once you’ve experienced the thrill of successfully defending against flying alien swarms and finishing your first contract, you won’t want to stop playing. That’s exactly what happened when I first tried out the demo — I lost track of time, and before I knew it, a few hours had passed. All while I was busy digging holes, managing resources, and taking down pesky creepy crawlies with rows of strategically placed turrets.

Grapple Dogs: Cosmic Canines

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Video team’s Scott has been playing Grapple Dogs:

Grapple Dogs: Cosmic Canines is an upcoming sequel to the aptly named Grapple Dog.
It’s an action-packed 2D platformer about dogs saving the universe that oozes charm from its funky soundtrack and an adorable art style. You can even pet our main man Pablo if you finish a stage with all the collectibles.

The movement feels smooth with clear inspiration from Sonic, there is a slight learning curve but once you’ve got a hang of it you can zoom through the stages.

You get a small taste of Pablo’s abilities with the Electro Pulse powerup letting you zip across electric panels and fire yourself from cannons. Luna’s run-and-gun style combined with the platforming adds a nice bit of challenge. There are no bosses in the demo, unfortunately. I would have liked to see how the boss combat feels.

Thalassa: Edge of the Abyss

Nico’s final entry:

From the moment it started, Thalassa: Edge of the Abyss, an underwater tale of trauma, love, and loss, latched its hooks onto me and never let go. Although my time with it was short, this wonderfully told narrative-driven mystery wasted no time submerging me into its moving story with its unique cast of characters and eerily beautiful melancholic setting. It’s a game that I know I’ll be thinking about more of even after I finish playing it, and its release date can’t come any sooner because the story of the SS Thalassa and its crew needs to be told.


That’s as much as we have on our favourite demos from this year’s Steam Next Fest. We’re not going to stop there, though, as we’re going to continue playing demos until we find even more titles deserving of a spot on this list.

Remember to wishlist any games that take your fancy!

About the Author

Amaar Chowdhury

Amaar loves retro hardware and boring games with more words than action. So, he writes about them daily.